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Amex says ‘business cards must now only be used for business expenditure’

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The repercussions from the EU changes to interchange fees on credit and charge cards continue to filter through the market.

One way a card issuer can circumvent the 0.3% cap on fees is to issue ‘business’ cards as these are not capped.  The reason for this was quoted on yesterday in an article about Curve:

Mastercard stated:

We are supportive of the exclusion of commercial cards from the interchange cap as they are very important to the UK. Commercial Cards are a very different product compared to consumer cards, offering merchants, cardholders, and companies / governments providing them to their employees / civil servants specific and sophisticated services, which come at a higher cost to issuers. Unlike consumer cards, which compete with cash, commercial cards do not replace cash but traditional invoicing, which is a less efficient, less transparent, and more costly form means of payments. Commercial cards are also important in supporting small businesses as a vehicle for flexible short term financing. Capping interchange fees for Commercial cards would make issuers reconsider their issuance.

American Express Business Gold card

How you define a ‘commercial’ card is a complex question of course.  Some people I have asked believe that a commercial card will, in future, need to be settled from a business bank account.

American Express seems to be taking steps to protect itself with two changes to its Gold Business and Platinum Business cards this week.

(These cards come with generous sign-up bonuses by the way.  Gold Business offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points whilst Platinum Business offers 40,000 points.)

Here is the wording sent out:

“We will add new wording to your Agreement to clarify that you and any Supplementary Cardmembers may only use the Card for business purposes.  This means that you and any Supplementary Cardmembers must not use the card for personal expenditure.”

There is also another change of the rules which means that supplementary cardholders no longer have any liability for the spending they make.  The primary cardholder is solely responsible for settling their bill.  

I am only guessing, but I assume that this is because Amex has verified that the primary cardholder is ‘in business’ and so can hold a commercial card.  If the supplementary cardholder – who would usually be an employee – was liable for their own spending it could be used as evidence that Amex was issuing cards to ‘non business people’.

It isn’t clear whether Amex will deliberately start to close down Gold Business and Platinum Business accounts if it sees large volumes of personal spending going through.  They may feel they have no choice if the alternative is to lose their ability to charge a higher interchange fee.   At the moment, however, this is a moot point because the cap on interchange fees does not currently apply to Gold and Platinum Amex cards as I understand it.

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Comments (54)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • JP says:

    Do we think they’ll be making changes to the standard Amex Platinum before December?

    I intend to refer my wife in November time (when my travel/rental insurance expires), but worried that they’ll alter the benefits/increase the card fee before then.

  • billy says:

    Seems like another nail in the coffin for Curve, seems Amex might have caught wind that a lot of those cards were ordered under the pretense of ‘business’

  • James R says:

    Im assuming the consumer gold and platinum are clear of this amendment?

    Im getting really confused about these new regs and what they mean for us lot who aren’t lucky enough to fly more than a few times a year who rely on spending and bonuses.

  • Zander says:

    I always wondered how they’d define personal spending as what if I had to pop down to the nearest Waitrose, Subway etc to buy some food supplies for the office or if I’d bought employee gifts ranging from a scarf to a watch, both of which are done at the company I work for and no doubt put on the company accounts someway or another.

    I can only imagine the conversations between AMEX and the account holders regarding expensive clothing and accessories being purchased for staff for whatever reason.

    • NFH says:

      There are plenty of types of expenditure that would be hard to justify as a corporate business expense, for example haircuts, package holidays etc.

  • Mark says:

    SO I assume this is why Amex pulled their support of Curve as Curve is a business Amex and anyone can join?!

    • James R says:

      I expect it was because if they want to review your spending, they cant because every transaction is listed as Curve to amex.

      • Mr Dee says:

        Good point as they can’t know what is being charged to the card indirectly. They also might not want to be associated with the Curve card being used for personal reasons.

  • NFH says:

    I received the same letter from Amex today about my business card. I noticed an existing term “You may not use your Account …. in a manner which disguises the true nature of the Transaction, for example, by obtaining cash through a Transaction which you know will be treated as a purchase of goods and services ….”. Perhaps this is another reason that Amex have “paused” their agreement with Curve.

    • Will says:

      I think the cloaked cash advance possibility is what Amex really disliked.

      I paypal’d £180k to myself 3 years ago on my BA Amex – got card withdrawn and aback from Amex products.

      If I were curve I’d be trying to bring Amex back just for chip and pin.

  • anina tools vadodara says:

    anina tools vadodara

    Amex restricts personal use of business cards

  • Will says:

    Ok – now I’m confused. I thought I wasn’t going mad when my business plat application asked about a supplementary card for a spouse or partner (green or gold). So I can get a sup card for my partner’s personal spend. Just not a business one?

    • Rob says:

      A supp on a Business Plat will be another Business Plat and must be used for business expenditure, under these new rules.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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